National Program


Established in 1972 under the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), the National Estuarine Research Reserve System (NERRS) is a partnership program between the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and coastal states.  The nation’s coasts and estuaries need to be managed, understood and appreciated at multiple scales. Through a network of locally oriented programs around the country, the reserve system provides insight into common information and management needs as well as data for use by local, regional and federal scientists and decision makers.  Currently, the NERRS protects more than 1.3 million coastal and estuarine acres in 28 reserves located in 22 states and Puerto Rico.  Reserve programs are designed to address the major challenges of coastal management by integrating innovative science and environmental monitoring, general education and professional training programs, and resource stewardship.

NERRS reserve map

NOAA and NOAA Associated Partners

In addition to the individual Reserve sites and the Estuarine Research Division of NOAA, the NERRS cooperates with many NOAA based programs to support its mission.  

NOAA's Coastal Services Center (CSC) supports the environmental, social, and economic well being of the coast by linking people, information, and technology. Specific efforts to support the NERRS program include habitat characterization and training in technology, coastal management and process skills. 

NOAA’s National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) conducts and supports research, monitoring, assessments, and technical assistance to meet NOAA’s coastal stewardship and management responsibilities.

NOAA's National Geodetic Survey (NGS) defines and manages the National Spatial Reference System which provides the foundation for transportation and communication, mapping and charting, and a multitude of scientific and engineering applications.

NOAA’s Center for Operational Oceanic Products and Services (CO-OPS) provides the national infrastructure, science, and technical expertise to monitor, assess, and distribute tide, current, water level, and other coastal oceanographic products and services that support NOAA's mission of environmental stewardship and environmental assessment and prediction. 

NOAA’s National Weather Service (NWS) provides weather, hydrologic, and climate forecasts and warnings for the United States, its territories, adjacent waters and ocean areas.  NWS data and products form a national information database and infrastructure which can be used by other governmental agencies, the private sector, the public, and the global community.

NOAA’s Chesapeake Bay Office (CBO) works to help protect and restore the Chesapeake Bay through its programs in fisheries management, habitat restoration, coastal observations, and education, and represents NOAA in the Chesapeake Bay Program.

Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program is part of a national coastal zone management program, a voluntary partnership between National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and U.S. coastal states and territories authorized by the Coastal Zone Management Act.  The Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) serves as the lead agency for Virginia's networked coastal zone management program and helps agencies and localities to develop and implement coordinated coastal policies and solve coastal management problems.

Virginia Sea Grant facilitates research, educational, and outreach activities promoting sustainable management of marine resources. We are part of a larger network of Sea Grant programs housed in 31 colleges and universities around the country.

NOAA’s Sea Grant  is a nationwide network of 32 university-based programs that work with coastal communities. The National Sea Grant College Program engages this network of the nation’s top universities in conducting scientific research, education, training, and extension projects designed to foster science-based decisions about the use and conservation of our aquatic resources.


Other Key Partners

NERRS Central Data Management Office (CDMO) is located at the University of South Carolina's Belle W. Baruch Institute for Marine Biology and Coastal Research and the North Inlet-Winyah Bay, SC NERR. The purpose of the CDMO is to support and improve the NERRS System-Wide Monitoring Program through all aspects of data and metadata management, maintaining on-line data and information accessibility, and by providing technical support services.

The National Estuarine Research Reserve Association (NERRA), a national nonprofit organization, was established in 1987 to promote and advance the NERRS. NERRA is dedicated to the protection, understanding, and science-based management of our nation’s estuaries and coasts. The NERRS relies on the support of NERRA to strengthen and expand its successful programs, and to enable this network to better address growing challenges to our nation’s estuaries and coasts. NERRA works with Congress, NOAA, and public and private partners to increase support for research, monitoring, education, and stewardship within the NERRS. NERRA also provides public education and outreach to improve awareness and understanding of the importance of estuaries and coasts.